Sports Writer David Forde travels to Germany to watch Borussia Dortmund take on Newcastle in The Champions League.
Upon the release of the fixtures for the Champions League group stage matches, I booked flights to Dortmund for the 7th of November. If there were one match I wanted to see live from this group, it would have been Dortmund vs. Newcastle. I was apprehensive about how Dortmund would fare, but I knew I had to see this match in person.
Group F was dubbed ‘The Group of Death’ immediately after the UEFA’s draw on the 31st of August, as it contained four heavyweights from the top flights of Europe; AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle, and of course Borussia Dortmund. From the outset, it was very difficult for anyone to predict who would qualify for the knockouts. I was not disappointed when I travelled over to Dortmund, witnessing Dortmund defeat the Magpies 2-0 to top the table of Group F.
Going into this game, all the pundits were talking about was the recent form of both teams, with Newcastle scraping a 1-0 win to fellow Champions League contenders Arsenal, and Dortmund coming out of the weekend after suffering a devastating 4-0 home defeat against Bayern in Der Klassiker. Despite this, I had a great amount of confidence in Die Schwarz-Gelben. The 4-0 defeat at home to Bayern was the first time Dortmund had lost a game in their home stadium in all of 2023. Not to mention the fact they had beaten Newcastle 1-0 at St. James’ Park two weeks earlier.
The 4-0 defeat at home to Bayern was the first time Dortmund had lost a game in their home stadium in all of 2023.
After a few drinks in one of the many Borussia Dortmund-themed pubs in the city, we made our way to the Signal Iduna Park, a.k.a the Westfalenstadion. We got ourselves into the iconic Sudtribune, known to many as the Yellow Wall. It was a cold evening but the atmosphere inside the sold-out stadium was more than enough to keep us warm. The Yellow Wall gets behind their team for the entire 90 minutes, there is not a moment of silence from the fans. The game kicked off in front of the 81,365 spectators and things were under way. Any concerns I had about the game being tough for Dortmund melted away quite quickly as they looked very sharp; you could easily tell that Newcastle were rattled by the noise in the stadium. The chances came fast and after some juggling, a great flick from Marcel Sabitzer, and a quick one-two pass between Niclas Fullkrug and Sabitzer, Dortmund had drawn first blood in the 26th minute. The goal was scored by Niclas Fullkrug, who recorded his first Champions League goal for the club. There were a few more chances in the first half for Dortmund but they were unable to score.
The game kicked off in front of the 81,365 spectators and things were underway.
At the beginning of the second half, a banner had been raised across the bottom of the Sudtribune reading “You don’t care about the sport - all you care about is money”, along with the faces of the decision-makers, such as FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who signed off on the reform of the Champions League in the coming years. Play was temporarily stopped to clear the pitch of debris that had been thrown from the terraces onto the pitch, including fake money and fake gold. It is unclear whether the protest was also against the Saudi ownership of Newcastle, nevertheless, they were a good team to stage this protest against.
Play resumed shortly and Dortmund were back on the offensive, with the same fervour as the first half. There were chances for both sides, with a header from Joelinton going narrowly wide in the 56th minute being Newcastle’s best chance of the match. After a poor Newcastle corner, Karim Adeyemi was able to play a long pass to Julian Brandt who was able to run, supported by Sabitzer, with a quick counter-attack up the pitch. His shot was struck across the goal and nestled into the bottom-right corner to double Dortmund’s lead in the 79th minute. Brandt’s performance throughout the match was outstanding, winning a well-deserved Man of the Match trophy. Newcastle had one more good chance in the dying minutes of the game but were unable to capitalise, and the match ended 2-0.
Despite currently topping the group with 4 of the 6 matches played, Dortmund’s spot in the Round of 16 is not yet confirmed, with only 3 points separating the 4 teams. Either a win away to AC Milan or home to Paris Saint-Germain should guarantee Dortmund a spot in the knockouts. Given PSG’s poor away record this season in Europe, die Schwarz-Gelben should be optimistic about their chances of progressing should they fail to defeat AC Milan in the San Siro after playing out a scoreless draw in the Westfalenstadion. Should they fail to take any points from the last two games of the group stage, Dortmund will find themselves in the Europa League with the potential of getting themselves to the final, hosted in none other than our very own Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Given PSG’s poor away record this season in Europe, die Schwarz-Gelben should be optimistic about their chances of progressing should they fail to defeat AC Milan in the San Siro after playing out a scoreless draw in the Westfalenstadion.
This was easily one of the best matchday experiences I have had, and it was much cheaper than you could ever expect from a team in the Premier League. The way German football is set up makes it much easier for fans to get tickets at a reasonable price. If you have any interest in going to Germany to watch a match I would highly recommend checking to see if there is a fan club based in Ireland that can help you source tickets directly from the club. I got two tickets for less than €50 each, and regularly see Bundesliga tickets for less than €20 each. The easiest way to get to Dortmund is by flying to Dusseldorf from Dublin and getting the train to Dortmund (match tickets allow you to travel free on match days).